Often times we put up with muscle soreness and bear with the pain. But what if there was something that could help you recover faster? There is, and they’re called BCAAs. Branched Chain Amino Acids are one of the most popular and effective supplements on the market. Research suggests, that BCAAs have a positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, which is the muscle building process and prevents protein degradation or muscle mass breakdown. Here’s what you need to know about BCAAs if they really work, and how you should take them.
What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
Branched Chain Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. These building blocks refer to the three essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. The human body cannot manufacture essential amino acids, therefore, they must be obtained from food sources in your diet, or through supplementation.
How Do Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Work?
While the majority of essential amino acids are oxidized within the liver, BCAAs are predominantly oxidized within the skeletal muscle and other peripheral tissues. The anabolic or muscle building effects of high-intensity training and resistance training are controlled through the changes in signal transduction, which control and facilitate muscle protein synthesis (the process of building muscle mass). The signaling networks that control muscle protein synthesis through translation involve the phosphorylation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). BCAAs are said to have a definite consequence on this particular process and signaling pathway, therefore creating an anabolic effect on protein metabolism, increasing the rate of protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation.
So if you didn't major in Biochemistry what does that mean? It means that if you’re left with a positive balance of protein synthesis by supplementing with BCAAs you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to help build lean muscle mass. Leucine in particular, is vital in this process of building muscle mass and indirectly activates the p70 s6 Kinase and the eIF4F Complex, which is essential for the anabolic effects of muscle tissue and recovery.
It’s like this; the human body utilizes BCAAs for fuel during your workout, when it depletes glycogen stores. When you run low on stored sources of BCAAs your body cannot adequately repair itself. When you’re training at a high-intensity and you’ve burned through those BCAA stores, your body starts to be catabolic or starts to break down muscle mass for fuel instead. By supplementing with BCAAs you ensure your body is in a positive balance, to help promote muscle growth, repair, and reduce muscle soreness after your workout.
What Are The Benefits Of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
Unlike other essential amino acids, BCAAs have aliphatic side chains, with a branch or (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms), distinguishing them molecularly and functionally. BCAAs provide several beneficial roles to the human body. According to a research study published in the Journal of Nutrition BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, particularly Leucine have anabolic effects on protein metabolism by increasing the rate of muscle protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation (1) Every time you workout, you produce small tears in your muscle tissue, which then repairs and grows in the process. BCAAs help build muscle mass by repairing those tears.
Therefore in relation to resistance training, intake of Branched Chain Amino Acids during or after exercise stimulates the rate of muscle protein synthesis and leads to a positive protein balance, (i.e. the rate of protein synthesis is greater than the rate of protein breakdown).
Consequently, if you supplement with BCAAs during or after your workout you'll stimulate the process of protein synthesis to help build lean muscle mass and strength.
The school of Kinesiology at Auburn University in Alabama performed a ten-week randomized double-blind controlled study to examine the effects of BCAA supplementation with trained cyclists on select body composition, performance, and immune health over a 10-week training season. 18 trained cyclists were administered 12g of BCAAs per day or a maltodextrin placebo. The results showed a 19% increase in peak power performance and mean power (2)
In Summary, BCAAs Are Proven to Help
- Improve Muscle Recovery
- Reduce Muscle Mass Breakdown
- Rebuild Lean Muscle Mass
- Reduce Exercise-Induced Muscle Soreness
Why Should I Take Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
If you're serious about improving your athletic performance or reaching your health and fitness goals, then you should absolutely supplement with BCAAs. During exercise or high-intensity training, protein synthesis decreases as a result of the body utilizing amino acids for energy, subsequently increasing the rate of protein degradation and BCAA oxidation. Therefore, in order to take advantage of the countless hours you spend in the gym, box, or at the squat rack in your garage, it’s important to have a positive protein balance in order to build the muscle mass and strength you’ve been working so hard for.
If you do not receive the adequate amount of Leucine through your daily diet from natural protein sources or through supplementation the rate at which you break down muscle will be greater than the rate of protein synthesis resulting in a loss of muscle mass. In order to obtain an anabolic state (muscle-building state) during your workout, it is vital to obtain the proper and adequate amounts of BCAAs (3)
When Should I Take BCAAs?
On training days you should be taking BCAAs, before, during, and after your workouts or WOD.
Should You Take BCAAs On Non-Training Days?
On non-training days, you can still take BCAAs as they will help with the recovery and rebuilding process. Not to mention our lemon-lime BCAA is outrageously delicious. That being said, if you’re acquiring a large amount of BCAAs through your diet, you may not need to supplement with BCAA's, that is unless you want something delicious to drink during your workout. If you are not consuming an adequate level of protein, then we recommend taking BCAAs between meals and throughout the day on non-training days. Even if you’re supplementing with protein, it’s still a good idea to use BCAAs to help improve your performance.
What Foods Contain The Highest Amounts Of Leucine?
Retaining an adequate amount of essential amino acids, and primarily the Branched Chain Amino Acid, Leucine must be mainly obtained from your diet. Lean meat and poultry, generally contain rich amounts of Leucine. Lean turkey, beef filet, poultry, or pork will commonly contain around 3.5 – 4 grams of Leucine per 4oz serving. Fish, such as Tuna, Salmon or Trout are also adequate providers of Leucine.
Dairy products such as Milk, Greek Yogurt, and cottage cheese are high in protein, therefore providing another source of Leucine in your diet. Therefore, there are many organic whole foods, that you can find an adequate amount of Leucine, in order to help maintain an anabolic state during and after training. For all of you vegans, Edamame is loaded with Leucine. Plus, they're delicious!
BCAAs really work! When you’re deciding on what supplements to take, it ultimately depends on what your goals are. If you wake up every morning and get after it in the gym, box, or your all women’s workout group classes, then yes, BCAAs would be a great addition to your routine to help promote muscle growth and reduce exercise-induced soreness. Whole food sources and organic proteins will provide the adequate nutrients and Leucine levels you need for optimal protein synthesis and recovery, in addition to taking a BCAA supplement.
If your goals are to be more competitive and you’re trying to increase and build lean muscle mass while reducing body fat, I would also definitely recommend supplementing with BCAAs and adding them to your daily regimen. High-intensity training, such as CrossFit is catabolic to the muscle tissue and not only burns body fat but also can burn muscle if resumed for too long. Consequently, BCAAs are a critical component to rebuild, repair and to recover from high-intensity and resistance training.
Looking For The Best Tasting BCAA? Try our Lemon-Lime BCAA Blast! Made with BCAAs, L-Glutamine, And Electrolytes For Ultimate Hydration And Recovery
- Blomstrand*†4, Eva, Jörgen Eliasson*†, and And Håkan K. R. Karlsson**. "Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes in Protein Synthesis after Physical Exercise." The Journal Of Nutrition(2006): n. pag. Web.
- Kephart WC, Wachs TD, Mac Thompson, Brooks Mobley, Fox CD, McDonald JR, Ferguson BS, Young KC, Nie B, Martin JS, Pascoe DD, Arnold RD, Moon JR, Roberts MD, “Ten weeks of branched-chain amino acid supplementation improves select performance and immunological variables in trained cyclists.” Journal of Amino Acids (2016)
Kaido, Toshimi. "Branched Chain Amino Acids and Organ Transplantation." Branched Chain Amino Acids in Clinical Nutrition(2014): 181-90. Web.